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US Funds ’Porky’ Photonics

Photonics Spectra
May 2001
Stephanie A. Weiss

With an "oink, oink" here and an "oink, oink" there, Citizens Against Government Waste has vilified more than $200 million in government funding of photonics projects.

The photonics appropriations are among $18.5 billion worth in the organization's "2001 Congressional Pig Book," a compendium of projects that meet the organization's definition of "pork barrel." Traditionally, the term refers to projects that offer lawmakers an opportunity to reward patronage.

The group opposes appropriations that occur without budget requests, competitive bidding or other standard funding mechanisms.

Included among its "pork" projects is The Talk is Not Cheap Award winner, $4 million to continue and expand the Iowa Communications Network, sponsored by – surprise! – two members of Iowa's congressional delegation.

Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye won the group's Temptation Island Award for accumulating more than $400 million – including at least $26 million in photonics projects – to benefit his constituents.

'Some pig'

Laser technology won the largest share of the photonics "pork," accounting for more than half of the photonics total and the industry's largest single "pig": $30 million for the defense department's high-energy laser program. The program was not in the Department of Defense budget request, but the Senate added the funding.

Other photonics appropriations the group deemed porcine:
  • $2 million for Army research and development in optics manufacturing.
  • $2.5 million to move the Petawatt Laser from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., to the University of Nevada at Reno.
  • $4 million for a Navy Center of Excellence in Electro-Optics in Pennsylvania.
  • $5 million for Army research and development of laser vision correction.
  • $10 million for space-based laser program increases in Alabama.
  • $15 million for the Army's Tactical High-Energy Laser project in New Mexico.
A summary and a searchable database of the organization's findings are available at

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